Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Skip Navigation LinksHome What's New B2B Blog BlogPost

  • An Almost Codeless School Registration Application
    10 June 2015
    11:03 AM

    Category:Application Development; Portals and Collaboration
    Post By:David Frankland

    There are plenty of canned applications available to handle the student registration application processes for public school systems, and many can be extended and customized to meet the needs of the system.  But, when a technical high school explained their special requirements to the IT department of one of our local school systems, it was obvious that customizing the canned solution would be prohibitively expensive.  The technical high school struggled to manually handle the annual registration of roughly two thousand students, using spreadsheets and various reviews of each student’s past performance using disparate systems.  The process was painful, and something needed to be done.

    As I walked the school throug​​h their pain points, documented their registration process in Visio, and began to document all of the information that was required to admit a student, the registrar produced an InfoPath form that she had begun to develop.  It looked great, and she had put a lot of thought into it.  I asked, “What if I could allow students to fill this out as a web form, and then when you reviewed the form, I could populate it with the various attendance data, earned credits by subject, grade averages, discipline incidence, etc.?”  Everyone in the meeting literally lit up at the idea!

    With the excellent​​ help of a data analyst in the schools system’s IT department, within days I had eleven stored procedures that produced all of the data that was involved in the decision process.  There is a maximum of five roles involved, including ESOL Teachers, Special Needs Teachers, Counselors, the Assistant Principal, and the Registrar, so it was fairly easy customizing the form to display only the appropriate information for each role.  Finally, to make the whole process work, I developed a SharePoint Designer workflow to change the status of the process, based on data in the form, and to send descriptive emails with links to the relevant form to review to each of the roles, as their involvement was nee​​​​ded.

    InfoPath.png   SharePoint_Designer.png

    Other than a few dozen lines of C# to help with the student data fetchi​​ng, the entire solution was built using out-of-the-box InfoPath and SharePoint Designer features, which will make future updates easy for the IT department.  The managed code shouldn’t really change over time.

    When we showed the demonstration a couple of weeks after that first meeting, you could feel the joy in the room!  In the first weeks of school registration applications, some “nice-to-have” features were identified and the requests were quickly approved, so we were able to further improve the process.  Not all project requirements are met so nicely into the out-of-the box features of InfoPath and SharePoint, but when they do, like this one did, the return on investment can be dramatic.

  • Single Sign-On: ADFS or DirSync or FIM or EMS or not at all?
    13 May 2015
    2:47 PM

    Category:Infrastructure and Messaging; Cloud Services; Portals and Collaboration; Enterprise Mobility Suite; Application Development
    Post By:Cherie Knight-Batey

    Single Sign-On (SSO) can be achieved in multiple ways. In this blog, I will go over some of the most popular ways to achieve SSO. The four most popular ways users typically use SSO are: Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS), DirSync (with Password Sync), Forefront Identity Manager (FIM) and Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS). As with most things in life, there certain advantages and disadvantages to each of these and usually there are one or two options that fit each need the best. Today, I will give a brief description and provide you with some of the benefits and drawbacks to each solution.

    ADFS with federated login provides, what is referred to as, true Single Sign-On with Office 365. I point this out because, other SSO options, like DirSync with Password Sync, only provides Same Sign-on. Same Sign-On means that the user will be prompted to re-enter their credentials when accessing Office 365, even if they have the same credentials.

    DirSync with Password Sync
    As mentioned above, DirSync with Password Sync provides Same Sign-On - where the user must re-enter their credentials even if they are the same. Since ADFS is not deployed in this scenario, DirSync is responsible for periodically synchronizing user profiles to Office 365; thus, there is no need to manually create users in the cloud directory.  

    ForeFront Identity Manager (FIM), also known as Microsoft Identity Manager, uses Microsoft Enterprise Single Sign-On (ESSO) to provide an encrypted store for secondary credentials that a user may have to present to an application in order to be authenticated and authorized by that application. Additionally, FIM helps your organization ensure users have appropriate access to corporate information regardless of where that information is located—in your datacenter or in the cloud. FIM does this by providing self-service identity management, automated lifecycle management across heterogeneous platforms, rich policy framework for enforcing security policies, and detailed audit capabilities. 

    Microsoft’s Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS) centrally manages identities across your datacenter and the cloud, providing secure single sign-on to all of your applications. This is a cloud-based identity and access management solution on Azure Active Directory.

    ​Active Directory Federation Services• ​Users logged in to a domain-joined machine do not have to re-enter their password when signing in to Office 365

    • Allows for Client Access Filtering (good for limiting access by remote or off-hour users)

    • No password hashes are synched to the cloud; all authentication is managed on-premises

    • Immediately block user access (i.e. when users leave the company)

    • Support for multi-factor authentication
    • ​Additional infrastructure required

    • Multiple points of failure

    • SSL Certificate from a public CA is needed and requires renewal 

    DirSync with Password Sync​• ​Easier and faster to implement and configure

    • Secure password hash-sync feature so that users don't have to enter a separate password
    ​• Automatic DirSync syncs occur every three hours; possible security-access issues

    • Does not provide true "Single Sign On" 

    ​Forefront Identity Manager​• End-User password reset

    • Common identity between applications and heterogeneous platforms

    • Custom solution - often complex and costly

    • Additional infrastructure required; ADFS is no longer required - can use Azure AD Sync Services
    ​Enterprise Mobility Suite
    ​• Create and manage a single-identity across your hybrid enterprise keeping users, groups and devices in sync

    • Enable application-access security by enforcing rules-based Multi-Factor Authentication for both on-premises and cloud applications

    • Self-service password reset and application access requests

    • Secure remote access to on-premises web apps

    • Greater security for mobile devices
    • Highly available​

    • Cost of individual options with the Enterprise Mobility Suite

  • Mail Migration: Where to Get Started!
    22 April 2015
    1:22 PM

    Category:Infrastructure and Messaging; Portals and Collaboration
    Post By:Paul Johnson

    When companies first launch, business owners typically use the standard, free email accounts you can find on the market, to communicate with employees, customers and partners. However, as the business grows and additional employees are hired on, a more robust email platform is often necessary​. But, how do we switch email platforms without losing all of the thousands of emails that contain important and sensitive information? This is where mail migration begins. Obviously, there are many other reasons a company or institution might need to migrate their mailboxes; but whatever the reason, mail migration has to occur if you want to maintain all of your data.

    Mail Migrations Explained
    Mail Migrations are often quite tedious and cu​mbersome ​​projects.  An email migration is a process used to migrate mailbox contents from one mail provider to another, such as: moving Gmail mailbox contents to Microsoft Exchange mailboxes.  In this blog we cover the many tools and techniques we have used to successfully move over a petabyte of mail.

    More commonly, mail migrations fail before they ever start.  Migrations require proper and adequate assessment of the current mail systems (source) and a thorough evaluation of the future mail systems (destinations). 

    ​Considerations of the "Source" assessment include:

    • ​​- Features and limitations of your current email system (spam, archiving etc.)
    • - Average size per mailbox
    • - Existing retention policies
    • - Existing mail formats
    • - Identification of special cases such as large mailboxes or resource accounts
    • - Organizing mailboxes into groups such as VIP's, IT, Delegates and Resources
    • - Scrubbing mail addresses for proper formatting

    Considerations for the "Destination" evaluation include:

    • - Identify all the mailbox features offered by the new mail system
    • - Are any features missing in the destination mail system that were offered by the source mail system?
    • - Will the destination mail system accept your source mail formats?  Will mail be altered during the process?
    • - What is the total storage amount per mailbox?
    • - Has the Destination mail system be configured correctly for a smooth cutover?
    • - Have you considered the amount of training required for your end-users and admins?

    These are just a few of the considerations needed prior to beginning your mail migration.  Although every mail issue cannot be predicted, proper planning can reduce the amount of implementation time used during the actual migration of mail. 

    Improper planning on mail migrations can increase mailbox remediation time significantly.  Mailbox remediation is the process of removing errors or anomalies from a previously attempt mailbox move.  We estimate that an average of 5-8% of total mailboxes migrated will experience or require some form of remediation.

    Now that I've covered the basics of mail migration, next week I'm going to go over some of the different obstacles that you WILL be confronted with when migrating mail. No two mail migrations are the same, so there is a lot to look out for and be aware of before you jump the gun!

  • Tips, Traps & Tricks of Migrating SharePoint Content to Office 365
    08 April 2015
    9:30 AM

    Category:Application Development; Portals and Collaboration; Cloud Services
    Post By:Tyler Bithell

    Office ​​365 adoption is increasing daily and​​ many organizations are seriously considering moving their SharePoint on-premises environments to SharePoint Online.​ Making such a move requires careful consideration and planning. This blog posts seeks to shed ​​light on some things that an organizat​​ion should look for when considering moving​ to the cloud.

    The first thing to consider is the current version of SharePoint that the organization is using. If using 2007 or 2010, a third party migration tool will be required in order to complete the migration. There are many tools to choose from and this decision should not be made without careful consideration. Beyond just cost, an organization is entrusting their content to the software provider. The most important thing to consider in this decision is the level of support that comes with the software. If a company isn’t able to offer 24/7 support and be prepared to go so far as to provide a software patch, you should seek a solution elsewhere. If the current version is 2013, a tool is still going to be required to move the data up to the cloud, and the same considerations should be taken as far as provider support. Get your arms around your content BEFORE you migrate.

    Ask yourselves these questions:

    • - Is it critical that this content be migrated?​​

    • - Does our information architecture need an overhaul?​

    This is also the perfect time to re-organize your content. If there is content you don’t need, trash it. If there are sites that are poorly organized, re-organize them. Just be sure not to do this in a vacuum though - be sure to involve your users early and often. Nothing kills user buy-in like a blanket decision made without the user.

    Over the years, many organizations have expanded SharePoint functionality via farm-deployed solutions. While those solutions are often very useful,​ they are not allowed in SharePoint Online. It is at this point, that an organization should evaluate the need for the solution.​

    During this evaluation, the following questions should be answered:
    • - ​Is this solution mission critical?

    • - Does “out of the box” SharePoint Online functionality replace the solution?

    • - Should we take this opportunity to redesign the solution?

    • - Is it possible to recreate this functionality via the Client Side Object model?

    • - Can we build an app for that?

    • - Is there a third party tool that fills this gap?

    • - Should we consider a hybrid deployment to keep this functionality?​​

    SP Online Migration.png

    Oftentimes, new functionality will replace the need for the solution or it will be possible to perform the same function via the Client Site Object Model. Third party tools are often another option as well. Each of these options will make the migration run more efficiently and should be strongly considered versus a hybrid deployment. If a hybrid deployment can be avoided then it should. And if it is unavoidable, then it should only be used as a bridge to a more permanent solution.

    ​Many organizations have customized the look and feel of their on-premises SharePoint environment. If the environment from which they are migrating is a version prior to 2013, the current look and feel will most likely not work and will need to be redesigned. However, if the current version is 2010, there is an option to avoid a visual upgrade but a lot of front-end functionality is lost if a visual upgrade is not done. While it is possible to customize your look in SharePoint Online, it has been recommended to avoid it when possible. Microsoft is making updates on a regular basis, but those updates won’t make it to your site if it is using a custom masterpage. ​Just remember, custom branding in SharePoint Online is possible and is often done, so if customizations are required for your organization, accommodations can be made​​.​​​

  • The Basics of OneDrive
    01 April 2015
    10:26 AM

    Category:Cloud Services; Portals and Collaboration
    Post By:Chelsea Stephens

    So, tell me: have you ever been in a meeting with a potential customer only to realize the most important document you need is on your laptop back at the office?  Or, what about this: have you ever been doing work on your tablet while out of town and desperately needed a file that was inconveniently stored in one location on your PC at home? Well, we have good news for you (enter: Microsoft)! Microsoft understands your need for constant access to everything no matter where you are, that is why they have created OneDrive. Gone are the days of sending Excel files to your colleagues only to realize you left out an important piece of data. With OneDrive, now you can upload your documents to a shared folder, make edits in real-time and not worry about flooding their inbox with updated versions of the same document. At its core, OneDrive is simple yet critical to your business. Basically, it is a central location where you can store, edit, share, and access all of your files on any device from anywhere.

    What about security?

    One of the best features of OneDrive is that, not only are all of your documents secure within your organization, but you also have the ability to tweak and change those securities based on industry standards and other parameters defined by decision-makers and individual roles in your organization. As a leader in cloud security, you can trust that your documents are stored and secured according to some of the most sophisticated and rigorous standards.   

    Contributing & Collaborating

    As we said before, now all of your files can be stored in your OneDrive without ever having to worry about where they are located or making sure to email them to yourself before a big meeting. Along with anywhere-access, you can also create separate shared files for your colleagues, partners and customers, so they can have access no matter where they are. Because OneDrive is completely integrated with Office, it is easy to make changes to your documents, update the file in OneDrive and then share with your team. Worried that you and another team member will try to work on the same document at the same time? Fret no more, because with version control you can be sure that everyone is working on the most recent document and also view and revert to previous versions when necessary. When your document is finished and ready to be reviewed, it is easy to set up an approval process allowing only those with the right permissions to view and suggest changes. 

    New Features for the Future

    As with everything Microsoft does, IT and business gurus are constantly looking for ways to upgrade and add improvements to OneDrive. Some of the features already within sight are: new improvements to mobile apps for OneDrive, additional features to auditing and reporting on documents, a more comprehen​sive cross-platform sync support, and additional ways to prevent data loss and keep your most important files secure.​


    It’s easy for us to talk about how cool and life-changing OneDrive is since we use it every day, but why listen to us? Find out more for yourself on our OneDrive for Business page! Don’t forget, always Store. Share. Sync with OneDrive.  

  • Migrating SharePoint to the Cloud: Cloud Hybrid
    25 March 2015
    1:15 PM

    Category:Cloud Services; Portals and Collaboration
    Post By:Brad Kazmer

    If you have been following along with our blog series on Migrating SharePoint to the Cloud, you already know that we have covered two other cloud solutions for SharePoint migration - Office 365 and Windows Azure​. ​Today we complete this series by discussing a hybrid cloud solution which could involve ​any combination of SharePoint Online, On-Premises or in Azure. ​After reading through this series, you should have a better understanding of which SharePoint migration is ideal for your situation.

    A Cloud, Hybrid Solution
    A hybrid implementation involves a combination of S​harePoint platforms such as, SharePoint Online and SharePoint Server 2013 on-premises or SharePoint in Azure.  Hybrid implementations tend to be more common in larger organizations and typically result in leaving a fraction of the existing SharePoint applications on-premises and migrating the remaining content to SharePoint Online.  

    A hybrid deployment is considered when some of the following criteria are met:

    • - Your license or equipment depreciation cycle has not completed

    • - You have a lack of resources to expand the intranet

    • - An area of your portal has significant custom code, restrictive security requirements (geographic, standards-based), or very large files that need extra network bandwidth

    • - Although a hybrid deployment is the most flexible approach, it does have a few limitations to consider:

    • - Search – Although cross-site search can be configured, there are issues with relevance and refiners since results are not treated as aggregated items

    • - Social – Following cross-site documents does not work on the farm that does not contain the user’s profile.  Tags and Notes have similar issues.

    Selecting a SharePoint cloud strategy for your organization will depend on how the benefits of each option match your organization’s needs.  Office 365 is a good choice for distributed users with minimal SharePoint customizations.  SharePoint in Azure is a good choice for portal-wide customizations, heavy workloads and dev/test environments.  A Hybrid deployment is good when SharePoint applications and restrictive data can be isolated from other SharePoint content.

  • Migrating SharePoint to the Cloud: Windows Azure
    18 March 2015
    10:06 AM

    Category:Cloud Services; Portals and Collaboration
    Post By:Brad Kazmer

    As you know, we are in the middle of discussing ​​​different options for SharePoint cloud migration. Last week, we gave you a little insight on SharePoint migration to Office 365 - the benefits of it and what you get when you move to Office 365. This week, we are discussing the second option in SharePoint cloud migration - Windows Azure.  I'm sure you ha​​ve all heard about Azure by now​, but you might not be familiar with how it works or how your Shar​​ePoint cloud strategy could align perfectly with everything Windows Azure has to offer. 

    Windows Azure​
    Azure is Microsoft's cloud computing platform that run​s in the same datacenters as Office 365.  Among Azure's service options is, Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IAAS) which provides an operating system onto which SharePoint Server 2013 (the on-premises version) can be installed.  And to make things much simpler, there is an Azure Resource Group Gallery Template for SharePoint Server 2013 that automatically builds a SharePoint farm in just a few clicks.

    SharePoint in Azure offers a slightly different value proposition than SharePoint Online; but it also shares some of the same benefits:

    • - Hardware and Maintenance

    • - Guaranteed Availability (up to the OS layer)​

    • - Pay-As-You-Go with Scalability

    Keep in mind, however, SharePoint in Azure requires that the customer be responsible for upgrades and patches for the installed software and feature integration with other Office 365 services, like Exchange Online, is less robust than with SharePoint Online.

    SP in Azure.png

    The flexibility of SharePoin​t in Azure provides additional benefits not included with SharePoint Online:

    • - ​Tight integration with other applications. Server-side code is not allowed in SharePoint Online.

    • - Development and test farms. Deployment scripts get you running quickly and test farms can be turned off when not in use.

    • - Large workloads executed. Processes can be throttled in Office 365 to meet the 99.9% uptime guarantee.

    • - ​Public website with a vanity URL. Office 365 does not allow unique DNS entries - only redirection.​

    It's obvious that there are some definite benefits to migrating your SharePoint farm to Azure, but there are also benefits to SharePoint Online. Now that we have covered the primary cloud solutions, be sure to stay tuned for next week's blog update on a hybrid cloud solution for SharePoint hosting! 

  • Migrating SharePoint to the Cloud: Office 365
    12 March 2015
    10:11 AM

    Category:Cloud Services; Infrastructure and Messaging; Portals and Collaboration
    Post By:Brad Kazmer

    It’s no secret that more organizations are migrating their IT workloads to the cloud.  In 2014, an estimated 87% of organizations were using the public cloud, up from 61% in 2013.  Yet many organizations are undecided on how SharePoint fits into their cloud strategy. ​There are 3 choices for a SharePoint cloud strategy – Office365, Azure​ or a Hybrid deployment – and to complicate matters, there’s no single solution that works for every organization. In some situations, the best solution can be a little of both Office 365 and Azure, but how are you supposed to know which is the best solution for your organization? In this three-part series, we will explain the advantages and disadvantages of each cloud solution – providing you with the right questions, tools and resources in determining the appropriate cloud strategy for your organization. 

    Just to make sure we are all up-to-date on what Office 365 is and how it works, let's watch this quick video.


    Migrating SharePoint to Office 365

    Office365 is Microsoft’s leading Software-as-a-Service (SAAS) offering that bundles messaging with Exchange Online, unified communications with Lync Online, and collaboration with SharePoint Online.  Of the three cloud options for SharePoint, SharePoint Online provides the lowest total cost of ownership by including:

    • Hardware and Maintenance

    • Upgrades and Patches

    • Guaranteed Availability

    • Pay-As-You-Go with Scalability
    Since SharePoint Online is fully managed by Microsoft, customers receive the benefits of Microsoft’s privacy practices:
    ​​​• No Advertising – customer email, documents and data is not scanned or mined

    • Data Portability – customers own their data and can export at any time

    • No Mingling – customers can keep their corporate data separate from their consumer data

    SharePoint Online is able to provide so much, at a low cost, because the software runs in a multi-tenant environment.  For the customer, this means that SharePoint Online is not as customizable as the on-premises version of SharePoint.  Complex applications built on SharePoint and deep integration with other systems outside of Office365 can be restricted in SharePoint Online.

    ​Be sure to follow this blog - next week we'll be talking about the Windows Azure solution for SharePoint migration. ​​​​

  • Getting Started with Azure
    11 February 2015
    9:48 AM

    Category:Cloud Services; Portals and Collaboration
    Post By:Chelsea Stephens

    ​Now that you’ve made the transition to Office 365 - what’s next? Or maybe you haven’t made that jump yet, but want to explore ways to make use of cloud computing in your company. IT organizations are finding that using Azure as their platform for creating Development and Test environments is one of the simplest and most cost-effective initial use cases for Azure. 

    IT Challenges in Dev/Test environments
    The biggest challenge IT faces in supporting Dev/Test environments is that demand for server, database and network resources is constantly changing during the course of development projects. Building the hardware infrastructure needed to fully support the entire SDLC requires sizing the environment to handle the peak loads of the project, including the volume simulation testing necessary to ensure a system is production ready. 

    Azure Infrastructure as a Service 
    Azure gives your development team direct administrative control over the complete development environment – servers, databases, and network resources. They can create and configure the resources at the precise times and with the exact specifications needed, and then decommission them when they are finished. You pay for your actual usage, no more, no less. Further, when a developed project is fully tested and ready to roll into staging or production, you can easily redeploy your VMs to your own hardware or leave in Azure. 

    The Full Power of an on-demand Virtual Data Center with Azure
    In addition to Infrastructure, the full Azure suite also includes Platform as a Service capabilities, giving your team access to already configured Windows OS and SQL Server VMs. 

    Want to learn more?
    Dev/Test is just one of many use cases that can be supported with Azure. Are you planning for Windows 2003 end-of-life? Think Azure. Do you have back-up and restore DR needs? Think Azure. Do you still need your own installed version of SharePoint, but also want a cloud solution? Think Azure. Do you need failover protection for your Domain Controllers or ADFS? Think Azure.

    Give us a call if you’d like to learn more. You may qualify for a half or full-day free Assessment of your current environment and a roadmap of potential uses of cloud computing in your business.

  • The Challenges of Being an Early Adopter: Part 3 - The Choices
    04 February 2015
    2:55 PM

    Category:Application Development; Portals and Collaboration
    Post By:Chelsea Stephens

    In the last part of this series, we are continuing the discussion of what we ran into developing one of the first apps for the new Microsoft App model. We began with an overview of the app created, The Quiz App, and then followed up with some of the hosting issues we ran into. The conclusion to this series will go over the final decisions we made and where we stand in the process.

    The Choices

    The SharePoint App model offers several hosting options which determine where the code runs. These can be in SharePoint, in the cloud, or a mix of SharePoint and cloud. Each option has its own set of constraints and strengths.  In addition, migrating from the auto-hosted or SharePoint-hosted models shifts the costs and resources of running the app from the party installing the app, to the organization providing the app.


    Moving from a model where each installation creates exclusive resources, a provider-hosted app introduces the need to manage multi-tenancy, both for the website and database. Available options included (1) multiple B2B Tech websites for each installation, (2) shared websites for multiple teachers at each host’s website, or (3) a single multi-tenant website. 

    Several options are available as well for database deployment, including separate databases, multiple schemas, and using a tenant field identifier to isolate the data; each with their own set of pros and cons. it was determined that a single website with  a single partitioned Azure database with a tenant identifier for data isolation would be the solution. This would be the easiest to implement and maintain, requiring the least amount of changes. Additionally, due to the limited personal data, any risk would be low. 

    One of the final challenges of t​​he provider-hosted solution is that all apps for SharePoint must establish a trust between SharePoint and the remote web application by being registered with the hosting SharePoint farm or tenancy. Fortunately, registering the app thru the Seller Dashboard ​​will enable you to design your app with a multitenant architecture without requiring individual administrator registration. 

    Now that the research is done and architectural decisions have been made, this will all be validated by implementing these changes for the B2B Quiz App; hopefully before my trial Azure and SharePoint development subscriptions expire. Stay tuned.

    ​You can find our previous post on Hosting Issues, here. ​Or you can start with Challenges of Being an Early Adopter: Part 1, here.

  • The Challenges of Being an Early Adopter: Part 2
    29 January 2015
    8:53 AM

    Category:Application Development; Infrastructure and Messaging; Portals and Collaboration
    Post By:Chelsea Stephens

    ​In our previous entry for this series​, we introduced the Quiz App and our background in developing Office 365 and SharePoint apps. When Microsoft released their latest app model, we jumped at the chance to learn everything we could about it. Following the implementation of the app, we soon realized there were caveats to the hosting side, which you will find below.

    The Hosting Issues​
    The Quiz App does not access any SharePoint lists and only uses the SharePoint user’s identity. Since the application has been written using .NET MVC and uses server code, the app cannot be hosted by SharePoint.  A provider-hosted or self-hosted architecture would allow us to retain much of the existing code and database schema.  This means that the application web and database need to be hosted by B2B or a B2B Azure (or other cloud) environment.​

    As we all know, apps for SharePoint extend the capabilities of a SharePoint website which are in-part self-contained, fully immersive web applications.  When this new model was released, Microsoft included an Auto-Hosted option in which SharePoint would take care of provisioning any resources required to run the app, included the App Web and SQL Database, if needed.

    Microsoft has subsequently removed Auto-Hosting as a hosting option. As a result, any Apps built using auto-hosting will need to be converted to use another hosting alternative.

    SPHostedPic.png   ProviderHosted.png

    ​• In the current releases of SharePoint, Apps are used to extend SharePoint in the most fundamental ways, such as adding lists and libraries.

    • The lowest overhead and complexity in building new SharePoint Apps would be using SharePoint-Hosting, custom lists, HTML5, and client access technology.​

    • Azure is the logical cloud environment to use to develop and deploy a custom SharePoint Hybrid App.

    • Registering your app in the Seller Dashboard will enable you to design your app with a multitenant architecture without requiring individual administrator registration.

    Don't miss the last part of the series next week on, The Challenges of Being an Early Adopter: Part 3 - The Choices!

  • Challenges of Being an Early Adopter: Part 1
    21 January 2015
    2:54 PM

    Category:Application Development; Portals and Collaboration
    Post By:Chelsea Stephens

    This three part series goes over the trials of what it means to be an early adopter of new technologies, specifically using Microsoft’s new App Model - creating the app and then deploying it through the store. While B2B Technologies has made a successful and long-standing career of implementing Microsoft solutions for our customers, we wouldn’t have nearly the experience and reliable expertise if we didn’t venture out on our own first. This allows us to get the tough questions answered before our clients engage us for their projects. That being said, when Microsoft first released the new App model with Office 365 and SharePoint 2013, we were excited to create a solution using this architecture. 

    The App

    Microsoft has a large investment of resources in developing Office 365 for Education and offering sites available to schools for little or no cost. Due to B2B Tech’s emphasis on the education sector, and the number of Office 365 Education sites we have converted and deployed, the result of this endeavor was the B2B Quiz App. The B2B Quiz App was written as a SharePoint App website accessed through an educator’s O365 portal, which would allow teachers to share quizzes with members of their classes using a PC or tablet. It would be made available for free through the SharePoint App Store. 

    When a teacher installs the app on their O365 or SharePoint site, a new Azure website and SQL database is automatically created for their exclusive use with no configuration or registration required on their part. These sites are managed by their own SharePoint subscription. This is made possible through the auto-hosted architecture. When the new website is first accessed, the authorized user is determined to be the teacher. The teacher can then set up classes, build and schedules quizzes, and analyze the results.  Any subsequent users to the website are recognized as students who can locate and take their quizzes. 


    SharePoint Apps can be built to look like the SharePoint Host Website by sharing the host styling; however, we chose to give our app an appearance conveying more of the intent of the application.​

    Check back next week for Challenges of Being an Early Adopter: Part 2 - Hosting Issues!

  • SharePoint Collaboration with Yammer Group Feedback!
    14 January 2015
    10:18 AM

    Category:Portals and Collaboration; Cloud Services; Infrastructure and Messaging
    Post By:Chelsea Stephens

    Recently, I was talking to a friend from Microsoft and he told me I should look into Yammer Document Conversations. He thought they could be really useful for a Knowledgebase I am putting together.


    After doing some digging, I found that Microsoft has added Document Conversations to Office Web Apps to further integrate Yammer and Office 365.

    The first thing I noticed is that I didn’t have the small Yammer icon on the right portion of my screen. I checked and verified that Yammer was my social tools of choice by navigating to Admin >>> SharePoint >>> Settings

     Enterprise Social.png

    I met all the requirements but still no conversations. I submitted a ticket to Microsoft and they fixed an issue that was impacting my tenant.

    Once that was fixed, I had the Yammer Icon that I was searching for before…


    At that point, I was able to navigate to Yammer and see the same conversation in my SharePoint 2013 Yammer Group. I’d advise creating a group prior to starting the conversation to give the conversation context.

    In the screen shot below I’ve hovered over the document to show the options.


    If you click on “Go to Page” you are brought to the page dedicated to this document conversation.

    Yammer 5 Pic.png

    To me, this is a great way to step up document collaboration and we will be using this as often as it makes sense.​



  • Create Your Disaster Recovery Plan using Azure & System Center
    24 December 2014
    10:19 AM

    Category:Cloud Services; Portals and Collaboration; Infrastructure and Messaging
    Post By:Chelsea Stephens

    Microsoft System Center Data Protection Management (DPM) 2012 has presented a new feature that provides a solid, online protection solution for the customer’s production data. When fully implemented, this is a backup administrator’s delight.  Not only does this benefit IT administrators, but CIOs and business owners are extremely happy about the reduced total cost of ownership as the need to take tapes off-site vanishes. When you combine the rich features of System Center DPM with the power and convenience of Windows Azure, everyone benefits. Customers save money and resources while IT administrators have the best backup and disaster recovery plan in place for their company.

    With cloud storage and backup becoming common place worldwide, a majority of current System Center DPM users are warming up to the idea of fully utilizing all the capabilities and features offered through System Center DPM 2012 and are extending their backup options via Windows Azure. One can’t over-emphasize the importance of good backups while developing a reliable disaster recovery plan.
    One of the most difficult things with a backup solution is the quality of disaster recovery. Often, we develop what we believe to be a good backup plan but never attempt to test it. What good is a backup that is never tested for accuracy and reliability? Using System Center DPM and Windows Azure to backup, you will never to have to worry about the quality of the tape or the backup itself once you have tested and practiced this backup recovery plan.

    Graphical View of a DPM Console with Azure (online) subscription

    B2B Tech Success with Azure and System Center DPM
    B2B Technologies has already implemented this solution internally and is extremely happy with its practicality and reliability. We share our own success story with our customers to reinforce its importance in the IT workplace and provide the best possible option when it comes to creating a disaster recovery plan.

    Best Practices: Facts & Tips
    •    You can use Windows Powershell to recover a DPM backup from Azure using the Windows Azure backup agent

    •    Azure Backup provides a Disaster Recovery (DR) solution more than a long-term archive solution. 30 days is the maximum retention period at this time for Cloud Backup of Windows Servers. (DPM can provide up to 120 days retention of Cloud Backup protected data.)

    •    Azure Backup may incur storage charges. This link has up-to-date pricing information on Windows Backup charges for Azure storage:

    •    Azure Backup simplifies the process of getting data out of the building. It’s much easier than backup tapes or offsite storage services.

    •    To make this work, the Azure Backup agent must be installed on the DPM server only when used in this configuration. When Azure Backup is used in conjunction with System Center DPM, there must be an additional location for recovery data storage.

    •    This will protect your SQL, Exchange and SharePoint just as if it were on-premises

    •    The cost is as little as $0.28 per GB per month (please check with your MS vendor)

    By: Stephen Aluko
    Senior Consultant, B2B Technologies

  • B2B Tech's Top 5 Highlights from SharePoint Conference 2014
    28 March 2014
    3:48 PM

    Category:Cloud Services; Portals and Collaboration; Infrastructure and Messaging; Business Intelligence
    Post By:Chelsea Stephens

    ​1.     SharePoint Online and Office 365 get the love

    It used to be that SPO (SharePoint Online in Office 365) was always lagging behind the big brother SharePoint on premises.  Well the shoe is on the other foot with Microsoft developing a "cloud first" strategy.

    Products will be developed for the cloud and then made available to on premises versions -- if at all.

    In fact, Microsoft has only committed to one more release of SharePoint for on premises (available in 2015).

    Cloud-only features:

    • Power BI​
    • Extended (or Unified) Groups
    • Social through Yammer
    • Office 365 Video Portal
    • OSLO

    Microsoft has not abandoned the on-prem community and did solicit customer and community feedback.  In fact many of the cloud services can be seamlessly integrated with an on premises installation of SharePoint.

    ​2.     Power BI (or power to the people)

    Power BI is a suite of business intelligence tools available only in Office 365.  These tools really lower the bar in making BI reports and graphs available to decision makers.  The suite of tools includes:

    • Power Query – query relational tables, office documents, or even web pages
    • Power Map – make your data geospatial and explore and navigate via a 3d map
    • Power Pivot – create in-memory multidimensional data without requiring SQL Server Analysis Services
    • Power View – provide interactive, animated visualizations (i.e. graphs on steroids)

    Why is it important?  Because Microsoft bills this suite as self-service.  No huge, years-long, enterprise data warehouse project to produce cubed, financial data reports needed last week. 

    Is it truly self-service?  Well, sort of.  You still need a strong data analyst to manage foreign key relationships and understand dimensional data.  However, once the data query has done its work producing graphs are straight forward.  The best part is that the queries are saved and can be re-used.

    Did I mention that all the queries, reports, and graphs are displayed and managed through SharePoint?


    Power Map


    Power Query

    3. Social and Extended Groups

    Microsoft finally clarified the social roadmap.  Yammer has won and the social features currently embedded in SharePoint are sunsetting.         

    Yammer has had "groups" capability for a long time.  Essent​ially a user could define\invite people to be part of an ad hoc group.  This group shared comments and files via a group name and could be public or private.

    Microsoft has extended the groups concept across Exchange, SharePoint and Yammer.


    Additionally, as files in the group are accessed, the Yammer discussion appears with the document.


    4. Office 365 Video Portal

    Microsoft has finally addressed the fact that if you throw a video into SharePoint and a bunch of users access it simultaneously – say for training purposes, you run into a bandwidth issue.

    The new Office 365 Video Portal addresses the optimization, compression and rendering required by heavy use.  Additionally, it provides a YouTube-like interface to manage and find videos.

    In order to do accomplish this it leverages Azure video services.


    5. Office Graph and Oslo

    Jeff Teper the Vice President over SharePoint, Exchange, and Office 365 said that his mission is to address "information overload."  To that affect, he has commissioned Office Graph and a new dashboard interface codenamed, Oslo.

    Both tools are being developed by the same Norwegian com​pany that developed the FAST search engine used by SharePoint 2013.

    Jeff defined Office Graph as "the underlying substrate" for Yammer, SharePoint, OneDrive, and Exchange.  Essentially, it will be an index structure that ties a user and their permissions to objects across Microsoft apps while providing an API to extend it.  The idea is that it will use machine learning to determine which information is most relevant to your working habits.

    Oslo is the cross-platform interface that displays and filters the information collected by the Office Graph.  This dashboard displays the most relevant information based on your habits and the habits of people you are connected.


    Interface is developed for PC, tablet and phone


    Submitted by Matt Tinkler, CIO

Skip Navigation LinksHome What's New B2B Blog BlogPost